Orlando and the Golden World: The Old World and the New in As You Like It
Lisa Hopkins
Sheffield Hallam University

Hopkins, Lisa. "Orlando and the Golden World: The Old World and the New in As You Like It." Early Modern Literary Studies 8.2 (September, 2002): 2.1-21 <URL:

  1. Although it is one of the few Shakespeare plays not mentioned in Charles and Michelle Martindale's Shakespeare and the Uses of Antiquity, [1] As You Like It does, I shall argue, show a considerable interest in the classical past. Moreover, it does so, paradoxical though this may seem, specifically in the context of the New World. In Shakespeare's play, a setting which hovers with suggestive indeterminacy between England and France holds up a mirror in which the audience can see itself facing both a newly discovered continent in relation to which early modern Europe is the old world, and a classical past in relation to which it is itself new. In this confusing slippage of newness and oldness, Shakespeare seems to introduce a comforting absolute by his repeated references to the concept of a golden age. However, disturbing ironies and instabilities accrue to the word "gold" as the quest for the ideological 'gold standard' proves to be fissured by a conflict between the classical definition of the golden age as a time of spiritual excellence, and the far more materialistic lust for the literal gold of the new world. [2] At the same time as it shows how European attempts to establish dominance in the New World of the Americas are underpinned by pride in a classical heritage, As You Like It thus also charts a growing gulf between the values and attitudes of early modern Europeans and that authorising classical culture.

  2. In the second half of the 1590s, much gossip and several significant texts were generated by the 1595 expedition of Sir Walter Ralegh to Guiana, in search of the mythical city of El Dorado. These range from Ralegh's own account, which presents itself as insistently factual, to George Chapman's De Guiana Carmen Epicum, which harnesses the full representational armoury of poetry, and by its Latin title and use of the epic form deliberately presents itself as hymning the English colonial enterprise in the Americas in much the same spirit as Virgil had chronicled Aeneas's forays into Africa and Italy. As You Like It, I think, also forms part of the collective cultural response to Ralegh's journey, and develops Chapman's classicising impulse into a double imaging of liminality which focuses not only on the encounter of Europeans with the New World but also, as an inseparable corollary, on the encounter of modern Europeanness with its own formative past. This play which is so full of doubles, with two characters called Oliver, two called Jaques, and (in the Folio) even two dukes called Frederick, offers a further doubling of old world and new in which each finds its features reflected in those of the other. [3] It thus explores a dual pressure being exerted on notions of what it means to be a member of civilised European society and on what the practices, ideals, and the collective memory of such a society should be.

  3. Much has been written about the ways in which expectations formed by classical texts conditioned what Europeans thought they saw in the New World. Aristotle in particular provided a paradigm influential in structuring explorers' experiences, [4] but many other writers were also drawn on, and the phenomenon was a wide-ranging one. Neil Whitehead discusses its presence not only in European writing in general but in that of Ralegh in particular, and interestingly argues that it was not a simple case of imposition of a pattern of expectations, but that the myths which acquired most currency were those which chimed in with something pre-existent in native thought:

    the relative importance of Sciopodi and Acephali in the European writing on the New World is directly connected to the relative importance of those icons in native thought. The dog-headed people, centaurs, and minotaurs do not appear with the same frequency as other monstrous / marvellous motifs in the colonial records because they were not part of the native repertoire. [5]

    The extent to which the process was a two-way one is also clearly indicated by the ways in which discoveries about the New World led Renaissance writers to reassess their conceptions of the old. Garcilaso de la Vega saw the Inca empire in terms of the Roman one, and Las Casas's comparison of the Indians with ancient Britons is emblematic of an increasing move away from accepting the romanticised account of early British history offered by Geoffrey of Monmouth to a view that the pre-Roman inhabitants of Britain were, in a popular pun, little more than brutish. [6] This was a particular historiographical change with which, as has recently been traced, Shakespeare was later to engage in Cymbeline, [7] but the climate of thought which gave rise to it, and which allowed the discovery of the New World to interrogate the certainties of the old, is already incipient in As You Like It.

  4. Shakespeare's source for As You Like It, Thomas Lodge's Rosalynde, or Euphues' Golden Legacy (1590), was written during a voyage to the Canaries. Both the subtitle of Lodge's work and the unusual circumstances of its composition may alert us to an important aspect of Shakespeare's play: its interest in the idea of a golden world, and the ways in which that has been imagined in both classical and New World contexts. (And as Keir Elam ingeniously suggests, Shakespeare's use of the word "lodging" in his play points up the debt.) [8] In both cases, the idea of the Golden Age represents a lost past from which the present is painfully conscious that it has declined, but the two are rather differently envisaged. For the Renaissance, the 'golden age' of the classical past was experienced primarily as a time of supreme achievement in writing, with Virgil standing as perhaps the ultimate exemplar of attainment. [9] The classical conception of the golden age, however, was by no means centrally constructed as literary. Ovid specifically says that "no bronze tablets were erected," [10] and the "golden race" of Hesiod would hardly have had time to write, since "with legs and arms never failing they made merry with feasting beyond the reach of all evils." [11] (Ironically, Peter Martyr compared the Indians' own fables, orally transmitted, with Ovidian narrative.) [12] In Hesiod's schema, it is not until the fourth separate race of men that we come to named individuals who have left any written record, in the shape of the Homeric heroes. The exiled Duke in As You Like It is notably attuned to the former ideal: he praises his environment because it offers him "books in the running brooks." [13] Jaques, however, sees in the same brooks the tears of a wounded deer (II.1.42-3), whose distress offers sharp experiential proof that this is not a peaceful pastoral paradise just as the wind and hunger do. Even as we take our first step into "the golden world" (I.1.112) which Charles has described the forest as being, an ideological fissure opens up at our feet. [14]

  5. Moreover, the concept of 'the golden age' not only differs from period to period, but is also subject to retrospective revision. The discovery of the New World itself changed the idea of the classical period as a golden age, since "[t]he very fact of the discovery of America meant that the moderns had achieved something that had not been achieved by antiquity," and thus led Bodin to conclude that "[t]he age which they call golden...if it be compared with ours, would seem but iron." [15] Ironically, however, the New World which thus undid the goldenness of antiquity was itself golden only in the most problematic of senses. Golden worlds are repeatedly evoked in As You Like It, but they are also shadowed by equally insistent references to a very un-golden dystopia, Ireland, which was often figured as the prototype and testing-ground of England's New World colonisation projects. Moreover, as in Guiana, what eventually proves to lie at the heart of the mystery in As You Like It is not a golden world at all, but a golden man, and this in turn raises the whole question of whether a golden world ought ideally to be so in the spiritual or the material sense. What does it mean to be golden, and how can society aspire to such a condition?

  6. Although the actual temporal setting of As You Like It is never made clear, and its affiliations are indeed poised almost as ambiguously as its twin geographical allegiances to Warwickshire and the Ardennes, it is heavy with references to the past. The opening lines, with their 'once upon a time' feel, create a rich sense of nostalgia and of the backward glance to a dimly-recalled past: "As I remember, Adam, it was upon this fashion" (I.1.1). Quite apart from their evocation of the founding father of the human race, Orlando's words here establish a sense of people ruled and configured by their awareness of an authorising past which, however, they are not sure they can fully know or remember - apt image indeed of the relationship of the Renaissance to that of which it purports to be a rebirth. Orlando is again associated with remembrance of things past when he tells Adam,

    O good old man, how well in thee appears
    The constant service of the antique world,
    When service sweat for duty, not for meed!
    Thou art not for the fashion of these times,
    Where none will sweat but for promotion,
    And having that do choke their service up
    Even with the having; it is not so with thee.

    Shakespeare's use of "antique" here serves to align Adam not only with the Christian but also with the classical past, which is, as so often, specifically characterised as morally better than the degenerate present. Suggestively, when Adam disappears without explanation half-way through the play it is almost certainly because he is required to double first the classically-named Corin and then the god of marriage, Hymen. Whether we are to interpret Hymen as an actual supernatural presence or as being obviously Corin dressed up remains unclear, nicely figuring an ambiguity about how real and how enduring the classical past is.

  7. The same note of praise of antiquity is sounded when Orlando's later praise of Rosalind takes the form of comparisons to the great beauties of the classical past:

         Nature presently distilled
    Helen's cheek, but not her heart,
         Cleopatra's majesty,
    Atalanta's better part,
         Sad Lucretia's modesty.


    Moreover, as well as being a character who alludes to and is associated with the past, Orlando's very name encodes a lost era of chivalric glory and values, for, together with the presence of two Olivers in the play, it surely prompts us to remember that behind the name Orlando lies the French hero Roland, most recently brought to prominence in Sir John Harington's 1591 translation of Orlando Furioso. This is a text which in turn intersects once again with the history of South American exploration: it contains a passage describing Amazons, [16] and when Ralegh was imprisoned in 1592 Sir Arthur Gorges told Elizabeth's chief minister Cecil that "Sir W.R. will shortly grow to be Orlando Furioso if the bright Angelica persevere against him a little longer." [17] (It is notable that the names of both Orlando and his brother are Shakespeare's own additions, since Lodge's equivalent characters are called Rosader and Saladyne.)

  8. Other characters also refer to the past. We hear of Troilus and Leander (IV.1.88-96), celebrated classical lovers whose stories had, in turn, become a fundamental part of the English literary tradition: Shakespeare himself would shortly follow Chaucer in writing of Troilus and Cressida, and Chapman, author of De Guiana Carmen Epicum, had recently completed Marlowe's putatively unfinished Hero and Leander. We are reminded, too, of other pasts in Jacques' "'Tis a Greek invocation, to call fools into a circle. I'll go sleep, if I can; if I cannot, I'll rail against all the first-born of Egypt" (II.5.56-8), his "My lungs began to crow like Chanticleer" (II.7.30), and Celia's "You must borrow me Gargantua's mouth first: 'tis a word too great for any mouth of this age's size" (III.2.218-9). Gargantua and Chanticleer take us out of the classical era and into the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and classical and Christian rub shoulders again in Rosalind and Celia's discussion of Orlando: told that Orlando was seen under an acorn, Rosalind exclaims, "It may well be called Jove's tree, when it drops such fruit" (III.2.229-30), while Celia associates him with the age of chivalry when she says, "There lay he, stretched along like a wounded knight" (III.2.233-4), imagery which will be echoed later in the description of the serpent and the lioness (IV.3.99-121).

  9. The past, however, is not simply evoked; we are also reminded of the ways in which it may be posthumously reconstructed. A Renaissance audience invited to think of Leander would remember that Chapman had not only supplied a conclusion to Marlowe's poem, but had also coined the name "Sestiad" (from the fact that the poem is set partially in Sestos) for its verse units - a retrospective appropriation, indeed a virtual colonisation, of the authentically classical "Iliad." The way in which classical authors may find themselves received in Christian times is even more directly recalled in the jokes about "elegies on brambles" (III.2.347-8) and "honest Ovid" (III.3.6), which appear to allude to the recent public burning of Marlowe's pioneering translation of All Ovid's Elegies. [18] Just as in Bodin's rejection of classical authority, we are reminded here of how hard classical values and allegiances may find it to survive in a modern, Christian age. Appropriately, too, the play ends with an invocation of both classical and Christian forms of closure, which may indeed be seen as virtually in competition: Jacques jokes that "There is sure another flood toward, and these creatures are coming to the ark" (V.4.35-6), but, after marriage by the Christian priest Sir Oliver Martext has earlier been dismissed as a possibility, it is the classical god Hymen who presides over the closing moments.

  10. Closer and more recent past are also evoked. Charles reports of the old Duke that "They say he is already in the Forest of Arden, and a many merry men with him; and there they live like the old Robin Hood of England: they say many young gentlemen flock to him every day, and fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world" (I.1.108-1). When the courtly characters arrive at this modern version of the "golden world," however, they are uncertain whether gold itself is actually current there: Celia begs her companions, "I pray you, one of you question yond man / If he for gold will give us any food; / I faint almost to death" (II.4.58-60. We hear further discussion of the use of gold at II.4.68 and II.4.97). In fact, though, as with so many of the play's confoundings of expectations, there turn out to be very sophisticated and complex economic arrangements operating in the forest, as Corin informs them:

                                  Fair sir, I pity her,
    And wish, for her sake more than for mine own,
    My fortunes were more able to relieve her;
    But I am shepherd to another man,
    And do not shear the fleeces that I graze.
    My master is of churlish disposition,
    And little recks to find the way to heaven
    By doing deeds of hospitality.
    Besides, his cote, his flocks, and bounds of feed
    Are now on sale, and at our sheepcote now,
    By reason of his absence, there is nothing
    That you will feed on.

    The golden age envisaged here may, perhaps, be spiritually rich, but it is materially poor.

  11. Alongside this qualified nostalgia for the golden age of the past is a sustained, though equally tempered, interest in the concept of a more contemporary golden world. The play is rich in the language of the English colonial enterprise. [19] Jacques says of Touchstone, "in his brain, / Which is as dry as the remainder biscuit / After a voyage, he hath strange places crammed / With observation" (II.7.38-41), and later prophesies that his "loving voyage / Is but for two months victualled" (V.4.188-9). Rosalind in particular is strongly associated with references to the foreign and the exotic. Orlando's egregious verses declare that "From the east to western Ind, / No jewel is like Rosalind" (III.2.84-5), and Rosalind herself tells Celia that "One inch of delay more is a South Sea of discovery" (III.2.190-1). Indeed Rosalind talks a great deal about travel. She says to Jacques, "A traveller! By my faith, you have great reason to be sad. I fear you have sold your own lands to see other men's; then, to have seen much and to have nothing is to have rich eyes and poor hands" (IV.1.19-22). She warns Orlando,

    I will be more jealous of thee than a Barbary cock-pigeon over his hen, more clamorous than a parrot against rain, more new-fangled than an ape, more giddy in my desires than a monkey; I will weep for nothing, like Diana in the fountain, and I will do that when you are disposed to be merry; I will laugh like a hyen, and that when thou art inclined to sleep.

    She says of Phoebe that

                                she defies me,
    Like Turk to Christian; women's gentle brain
    Could not drop forth such giant rude invention,
    Such Ethiop words, blacker in their effect
    Than in their countenance.

    And she declares, "my affection hath an unknown bottom, like the Bay of Portugal" (IV.1.192-3). Her reference to "Caesar's thrasonical brag of 'I came, saw, and overcame" (V.2.30-1) further touches on a theme of invasion and conquest also present in Jacques' suggestion "Let's present him to the Duke like a Roman conqueror" (IV.2.2-3) and in her father's remark that "That would I, had I kingdoms to give with her" (V.4.8).

  12. In particular, Rosalind is closely associated with Ireland. [20] Though this may seem a long way from the New World, the two territories were in fact closely associated in the Elizabethan imagination: not only were they both viewed primarily as proposed or actual English colonies, the inhabitants of both were perceived to be equally savage and backward - Dympna Callaghan comments on the extent to which in the Renaissance the Irish were conceived of as being as racially other as blacks. [21] Most directly, perhaps, for any argument which seeks to establish a Guiana context for As You Like It, Ralegh had been involved in 'planting' or colonizing both, in ways which may well seem to be remembered in the heady mixture of Irish and New World motifs running through Spenser's work and in Marlowe's interweaving in Tamburlaine of images of conquest and what have sometimes been seen as recollections of Ralegh's brutality in Drogheda. [22] As You Like It as a whole is notably full of references to Irish wolves, Irish rats and Irish music; [23] indeed Sir D. Plunket Barton noted that "Rosalind has so much to say about Ireland that some people have drawn the inference that Shakespeare must have made an Irish tour shortly before the production of the play." [24] She tells Touchstone, "you'll be rotten ere you be half ripe" (III.2.115), touching on an idea often connected with Ireland, where women in particular were considered both to 'ripen' and to 'rot' exceptionally early - Camden remarked in 1586 that "[w]hen their daughters arrive at the age of ten or twelve, they marry them as ripe and capable," and Luke Gernon in 1620 asserted that Irish women were "soone ripe, soone rotten." [25] She also brings together the motifs of both Irishness and classical allusion when she says to Celia, "I was never so be-rhymed since Pythagoras's time that I was an Irish rat, which I can hardly remember" (III.2.171-2). [26]

  13. Most suggestively of all, Rosalind says, "Pray you no more of this, 'tis like the howling of Irish wolves against the moon" (V.2.104-5), which draws on the idea of rebellion against Elizabeth I, often figured as the moon [27] (not least by Ralegh), to point us unmistakably in the direction of the Elizabethan campaign in Ireland. Importantly, though, this is also another instance of the two-way mirroring effect; the site of the encounter between England and its Others is, as so often, a place where the old world as well as the new becomes subjected to scrutiny, for though the wolves may be foolish to howl at that which is so far out of their reach, the queen's own dignity can hardly emerge unscathed from the suggestion of rebellion against her. Further, our registering of this may well alert us to the fact that there are also other possible references to the Virgin Queen in the play, and they too are not entirely flattering. The Duke's declaration that "Sweet are the uses of adversity, / Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, / Wears yet a precious jewel in his head" (II.1.12-15) may recall the Queen's long courtship by the Duke of Alencon, whom she called her frog; English dislike of the proposed match gave rise to a rich vein of toad jokes. [28] Rosalind's description of "a moonish youth" (III.2.391-2), again recalling the strong association of the Queen with the moon, is also highly satirical. Since the Queen derived her persona as the moon from the classical moon goddess Diana, the image of the Irish wolves howling at the moon very neatly emblematises the onslaught of 'savages' against classical certainties. [29]

  14. The mirror is thus held up to England as well as to America, as the prime emblem of English collective identity, the queen, is examined; just as Orlando finds civility where he expected savagery (II.7.107), so we are led to see the existence of savagery where we might complacently have imagined civility to be. Other cherished institutions come in for similar treatment in the play. As You Like It may perhaps have been stimulated to some extent by an upsurge of interest in the figure of Robin Hood, but this is indicative of more than any simple nostalgia for Merrie England: Lois Potter points out that "[a]ll the extant Robin Hood plays belong to the 1590s, a period of uncertainty about the succession to Elizabeth I, and the plays both reflect and displace popular anxiety by dramatizing other periods of instability." [30] Some of these plays, such as George a Greene, use the story of Robin Hood to interrogate the concepts of rule and resistance; [31] in the case of As You Like It, the evocation of Robin Hood is tellingly juxtaposed with the way the play subjects the hunting of deer - the activity with which Robin Hood is more than any other associated - to a scrutiny which suggests that the Duke's usurpation of the deer in their own forest is no more justifiable than his brother's of the dukedom (II.1.25-7).

  15. In similar vein, Jaques' equation of the horn dance with Roman rites (IV.2.3-4) drains the latter of any sense of sophistication and makes them seem crudely primitive, working in the same spirit of demystification as Garcilaso de la Vega's comparison of the Inca empire with the Roman. (In Julius Caesar, a play written probably in the same year as As You Like It, Shakespeare shows a strong sense of the relatively crude nature of the fertility practices underpinning much Roman state ritual.) [32] Equally debunking is Rosalind's devastating later coupling of "the fight of two rams, and Caesar's thrasonical brag of 'I came, saw, and overcame"' (V.2.29-31; this again takes the play close to the contested world of Galfridian history which Shakespeare was to explore more fully in Cymbeline, where the queen explicitly denies the historicity of Caesar's words). Moreover, not only does Celia as Aliena literally become the Other, but when Rosalind adopts "no worse a name than Jove's own page" (I.3.122), her new appellation of Ganymede, as Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage had so strongly pointed out, irresistibly evokes sodomy, something often thought to be prevalent amongst the Indians, [33] but here again, by the use of classical allusion, located as a product of the Old World rather than the New. And another controversy associated with the New World is evoked when Rosalind asserts that "The poor world is almost six thousand years old" (IV.1.85-6); this was precisely what was contested by Thomas Hariot, who argued that the existence of the America Indians proved the world to be more like sixteen than six thouand years old, and thus disproved the Bible. [34] (It is notable that Rosalind passes on immediately from this remark to reminiscences of the verse of Marlowe, said to have been the friend of Hariot and to have shared both his heretical opinions and the alleged sodomitical tendencies of the Indians.)

  16. Much of the language of As You Like It, then, conspires to remind its audience that the penetration of new lands may both prove more problematic than anticipated and also have unexpected consequences for the denizens of the old, and it does so by drawing on images which, for contemporaries, seem resonantly to recall the actual difficulties of the Elizabethan colonial enterprise and the problems of trying to achieve a settlement in Ireland. Other elements of the text also combine to underline the force of these echoes: Jaques' travel leaves him poor, echoing the failure of Ralegh and others to bring back vast sums from the Americas, and suggesting, ultimately, that the English colonial venture may not only be attended with difficulties, but may not even be worth the candle. Nevertheless, the text also insists that there is still gold to be struck, even if not of the sort that might have been expected. Orlando's name begins with the French word for gold, or (derived ultimately, as Shakespeare would have known, from the Latin aurum), and his first speech reinforces the association, as he says, "My brother Jaques he keeps at school, and report speaks goldenly of his profit" (I.1.4-6). The idea is also present in the dual association of Orlando with Atalanta, both in his own poem and in his exchange with Jaques. Jaques says scornfully, "You are full of pretty answers: have you not been acquainted with goldsmiths' wives, and conned them out of rings?," to which Orlando replies, "Not so; but I answer you right painted cloth, from whence you have studied your questions," and to this Jaques responds in turn, "You have a nimble wit; I think 'twas made of Atalanta's heels" (III.2.262-8). Jaques accuses Orlando of associating with goldsmiths' wives; [35] Atalanta was running after a golden apple. There may be no golden land, but there is a golden man, who like a noble savage is "never schooled and yet learned" (I.1.135), and Rosalind, who is, after all, accompanied by a Touchstone, appropriately finds him.

  17. This was the quintessential ambiguity at the heart of all English attempts to strike it rich in South America. The Spanish name El Dorado, which actually means a golden man, and seems to represent a genuine indigenous concept of a golden king, was insistently misinterpreted as a golden land. Even where the etymology was understood or the concept it signified fully grasped, a slippage - slippages being an essential characteristic of almost everything associated with the idea of El Dorado - occurs, as when Sir Robert Dudley, illegitimate son of the Earl of Leicester, who mounted an expedition shortly before Ralegh's first foray, noted that "I was told of a rich nation, that sprinkled their bodies with the powder of golde, and seemed to be guilt, and that farre beyond them was a great towne called El Dorado, with many other things." [36] (The richly suggestive pun of 'guilt' with 'gilt' is of course another issue, but speaks too loudly to be ignored totally.) Above all, the determination to read El Dorado as a country instead of a person is the central feature of the quest of Sir Walter Ralegh, whose title-page of The Discoverie of the Large, Rich and Bewtiful Empire of Guiana (first published in 1596, two years before the probable date of As You Like It) quite erroneously refers to "the great and Golden Citie of Manoa (which the Spanyards call El Dorado."

  18. As You Like It shares many notable features with the Discoverie. [37] This is perhaps unsurprising, since Thomas Lodge, author of Rosalynde, Shakespeare's source for the play, seems to have been personally connected both with Ralegh and with the Guiana voyage: his captain on the voyage to the Canaries during which he wrote Rosalynde was probably a captain on the Guiana expedition, and the ship in which Lodge sailed was owned by Ralegh. [38] And Shakespeare, who so frequently recalls Marlowe elsewhere in the play, was hardly likely to overlook the fact that Chapman, author of the continutation of Marlowe's Hero and Leander (from which Shakespeare quotes directly in the play), had also written an epic poem, De Guiana, in response to Ralegh's voyage, in which he specifically speaks of the proposed second Guiana voyage as creating "A golden world in this our iron age." [39] (Ralegh's reply to Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love" had of course already established the two men as the proponents of two opposing attitudes in the Renaissance's interrogation of the pastoral ideal.) If, however, as many critics have suggested, Shakespeare did indeed feel some sympathy for the Essex / Southampton faction, this would automatically tend to make him less well-disposed than Chapman towards Essex's chief enemy Ralegh. (There are some suggestive possible parallels between Essex and Anthony Munday's reworking of the Robin Hood figure as the exiled Earl of Huntingdon.) [40] Though Shakespeare may echo the discourse of the Discovery just as Chapman does, his attitude towards it seems considerably less eulogistic.

  19. There are a number of signs of intersection between As You Like It and the Discoverie. [41] The strangely composite nature of the geography of Arden, in which France interpenetrates Warwickshire and is home to lions and serpents, may be seen almost as an inversion of Ralegh's Guiana, since "[i]t has been suggested that Ralegh's reportage of the landscapes of Orinoco was so strongly influenced by his desire to make it seem a favourable place for settlement, and to make the exotic acceptably familiar, that he was led into projecting an English landscape on to an American wilderness," [42] describing the land as being "as full of deare, as any forrest or parke in England," [43] although he maintained, in defiance of all other authorities on natural history, that there were lions there too (Discoverie, 195) - and was also careful to stress that though the landscape might resemble England, it was pointedly unlike Ireland, since there were no bogs (Discoverie,197). Ralegh tends only to discuss those features of Guiana which he regards as familiar and assimilable within an English context, such as the woman who reminds him of someone back home, rather than anything new - as Charles Nicholl observantly points out (Discoverie,281), he does not even mention tobacco. When Ralegh looks at an American waterfall, he fancies the peaceful and benevolent sight of church towers (Discoverie,189); similarly, Orlando conjures the inhabitants of the forest by their memories of "where bells have knolled to church" (II.7.115). As well as travelling to America himself, moreover, Ralegh had also supported the expedition of the Frenchman Jacques Morgue (Discoverie, 10), whose name may be echoed in As You Like It's Jaques. Equally the fratricidal urges of Oliver and the Duke parallel those of Atahualpa (Atabalipa in Ralegh), who killed his elder brother, while one of his younger brothers fled with his men, like Duke Senior (Discoverie, 136). Brotherhood is a crucial trope in the history of the settlement of the New World, and a theory of the universal brotherhood of man was indeed the reason supplied to the Indians to persuade them to desist from sodomy: CortÚs explain[ed] to Montezuma "how we are all brothers, sons of one father and one mother who were called Adam and Eve," and the 'place of a brother' is not to sodomise brother. CortÚs further explained that that was why Charles V had sent him, [44] though it is presumably implicit here that the Spaniards enjoy the privileges of the elder brother. Echoing his rhetoric, Ralegh specifically recommends the settlement of Guiana as a way for the queen to "employ all those souldiers and gentlemen that are younger brethren" (Discoverie, 199), and the question of younger brothers is seen by Louis Montrose as one crucial to As You Like It. [45] When Orlando tells Oliver that "[t]he courtesy of nations allows you my better, in that you are the first born, but the same tradition takes not away my blood, were there twenty brothers betwixt us" (I.1.43-46), his militancy is certainly lent a new piquancy in the light of the abuse of the language of brotherhood to legitimise the Spanish colonisation of America.

  20. It has recently been suggested that although gold was valued by indigenous South Americans, this was less for its worth than for its appearance and symbolic value (Discoverie, 78-9). Given the extent to which it, too, presents its golden world as a locus of spiritual peace rather than exploitable economic wealth, As You Like It would seem both to mock Ralegh's obsession with plunderable riches [46] - which could even, perhaps, have been why it was initially 'stayed' by the Master of the Revels - and, by valuing the golden man Orlando more than gold itself, to sound the same note of valuing the human more than the material as is found in indigenous attitudes, and indeed in the classical idea of the Golden Age, since, as Charles Nicholl notes, "the plenty of the Golden Age was a freeing of man from the search and scrabble for wealth," [47] just as Orlando extols "The constant service of the antique world, / When service sweat for duty, not for meed!" (II.3.57-8). (Though Shakespeare himself need not have had quite so rosy-tinged a view of classical disdain of gold: the first remark addressed by Geoffrey of Monmouth's Cassivelaunus to Julius Caesar, in the section which would become a principal source for Cymbeline, is "The cupidity of the Roman people, my dear Caesar, is really quite beyond belief. They have an insatiable thirst for anything made of gold or silver.") [48] Ralegh enthused that in Guiana "all the rockes, mountaines, all stones in the plaines, in woodes, and by the rivers sides are in effect thorow shining, and appeare marveylous rich," but the gold which he brought back was pronounced worthless (Discoverie, 125); Arden, by contrast, may not be paved with gold, but it offers, more educatively, books in its brooks, and, more humanistically, an aesthetic which seeks its goldenness more in the spiritual than the material sense. [49]

  21. At the same time, though, the play shows itself acutely aware that the very fact of encounter with the outside world changes what is inside. Just as both Oliver and the Duke find that the entire basis of their lives is transformed on the borders of the forest, so Phoebe, Silvius, Audrey and William all find that they have unexpectedly found or been deprived of marriage partners by the advent of the courtly party. (Given the insistent sexualising of the language applied to the 'penetration' and 'husbanding' of the maidenheads of 'cuntries' like Guiana, not to mention the prominence of real-life relationships like that of CortÚs and Do˝a Marina, it is particularly appropriate that it is in the arena of sexual partnerships that the indigenous inhabitants' lives are most dramatically transformed; moreover, the Robin Hood element of As You Like It chimes eerily with the link recently postulated between Do˝a Marina and Maid Marian.) [50] Shakespeare's play never lets us forget that the cutting edge of encounters with the New World has cut both ways, and has forced the old world to re-evaluate its whole notion of goldenness and value. Equally, though, he does not agree that the best of the old world has thereby been entirely vitiated. Though a distinctly mocking eye may be turned on its ganymedes and on its pretensions to totality of knowledge, classical civilisation is still looked on with affection in this play in which books are still valued and a classical, spiritual idea of the golden, as found in the old world, is presented as preferable to the more mercenary ideologies fostered by the material wealth of the new.


1. Charles and Michelle Martindale, Shakespeare and the Uses of Antiquity: An Introductory Essay (London, Routledge, 1990).

2. For an analysis of Cymbeline as a play similarly conditioned by ideas of gold, see Maurice Hunt, '"New o'er': mining the veins of Shakespeare's Cymbeline," English Language Notes 36.4 (June 1999): 14-27.

3. Later, it would itself be doubled by King Lear, which also blends the pastoral and the political to interrogate both past and future (see David Young, The Heart's Forest: A Study of Shakespeare's Pastoral Plays [New Haven: Yale UP, 1972], 81).

4. See for instance J.H. Elliott, The Old World and the New 1492-1650 [1970 (Cambridge: Canto, 1992), 42-3, and more recently Celia R. Daileader, Eroticism on the Renaissance Stage: Transcendence, Desire, and the Limits of the Visible (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998), 17.

5. See for instance Neil L. Whitehead, ed., The Discoverie of the Large, Rich and Bewtiful Empire of Guiana (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1997), 70-1 and 94-9.

6. Elliott, The Old World, 51 and 50.

7. For an excellent account of these developments and of Shakespeare's response to them, see John E. Curran, "Royalty Unlearned, Honor Untaught: British Savages and Historiographical Change in Cymbeline," Comparative Drama 31.2 (summer, 1997): 277-303.

8. Keir Elam, "As They Did in the Golden World: Romantic Rapture and Semantic Rupture in As You Like It," in Reading the Renaissance: Culture, Poetics, and Drama, edited by Jonathan Hart (New York: Garland, 1996), 163-176, 163.

9. Though for a rather differently slanted commentary on the importance of Renaissance concepts of the Golden Age in As You Like It, see Jonathan Bate, Shakespeare and Ovid (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1993), 157-8.

10. Ovid, Metamorphoses, translated by Mary M. Innes (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955), 31.

11. Hesiod, "Works and Days," in Hugh G. Evelyn-White, The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English translation (London: Heinemann, 1914), 115.

12. See Arthur Ferguson, Utter Antiquity: Perceptions of Prehistory in Renaissance England (Durham: Duke UP, 1993), 57.

13. William Shakespeare, As You Like It, edited by H.J. Oliver (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968), II.I.16. All further quotations from the play will be taken from this edition and reference will be given in the text.

14. On the ways in which the Forest of Arden does not represent a pastoral paradise, see also Alan Sinfield, "Pastoral, Pierre Macherey and the Ideology of Literary History," REAL: Yearbook of Research in English and American Literature 17 (2001): 149-160. I am grateful to Professor Sinfield for sending me a copy of this article.

15. Elliott, The Old World, 52.

16. For comment on this, see Charles Nicholl, The Creature in the Map [1995] [London: Vintage, 1996], 86.

17. Quoted in M.C. Bradbrook, The School of Night (New York: Russell & Russell, 1965), 82.

18. For the implications of Marlowe's use of an Ovidian model, see the exhaustive recent study by Patrick Cheney, Marlowe's Counterfeit Profession: Ovid, Spenser, Counter-Nationhood (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1997).

19. For a reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream as informed by similar considerations, see R.W. Desai, "England, the Indian Boy, and the Spice Trade in A Midsummer Night's Dream," The Shakespeare Newsletter 48.1 (spring 1998): 3-4 and 26, and 48.2 (summer 1998): 39-40 and 42, and Stephen Greenblatt, Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World (Oxford: The Clarendon P, 1991), 21. For an analysis of Richard II as similarly informed, see Catherine Belsey, "The Illusion of Empire: Elizabethan Expansionism and Shakespeare's Second Tetralogy," Literature and History 1.2 (1990): 13-21,13, and for a similar argument with reference to Troilus and Cressida, see Joan Pong Linton, The Romance of the New World: Gender and the Literary Formations of English Colonialism [Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998], 133. For an argument that As You Like It shares with The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, and Much Ado About Nothing a motif of the wife as golden fleece, see Lynda E. Boose, "The Taming of the Shrew, Good Husbandry, and Enclosure," in Shakespeare Reread: The Texts in New Contexts, edited by Russ McDonald (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1994), 193-225, 217.

20. 'Rosalind' is often seen as a version of the Irish 'Rosaleen'; Michael Hattaway, in his notes to Jonson's The New Inn, points out that the name of the supposed Irish beggar Shelee is an Irish form of Celia (Ben Jonson, The New Inn, edited by Michael Hattaway [Manchester: Manchester UP, 1984], note on II.vi.263), so perhaps that name too would carry an Irish resonance.

21. Dympna Callaghan, "Re-reading Elizabeth Cary's The Tragedie of Mariam, Faire Queene of Jewry," in Women, 'Race', and Writing in the Early Modern Period, ed. Margo Hendricks and Patricia Parker (London: Routledge, 1994), 163-177, 165. On the link between blackness and Irishness in the Renaissance, see also Kim F. Hall, Things of Darkness: Economies of Race and Gender in Early Modern Europe (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1995), 6-7 and 145-6. On the links between Ireland and Virginia, see for instance Pong Linton, The Romance of the New World, 170, Nicholas Canny, Kingdom and Colony: Ireland in the Atlantic World 1560-1800 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1988), 2-3 and 6-7, and Gary Waller, Edmund Spenser: A Literary Life (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994), 25. For a counter-emphasis which stresses the difference of Ireland from America, see Andrew Murphy, But the Irish Sea Betwixt Us: Ireland, Colonialism, and Renaissance Literature (Kentucky: UP of Kentucky, 1999), introduction, 3-5.

22. See for instance Anthony Burgess, who sees Tamburlaine's golden armour as mirroring that of Sir Walter Raleigh, and also links Tamburlaine's killings to the Drogheda massacre (A Dead Man in Deptford [London: Hutchinson, 1993], 125), though Burgess was by no means the first to make the connection.

23. See Sir D. Plunket Barton, Links Between Ireland and Shakespeare (Dublin: Maunsel, 1919), 59-66, and Michael Cronin, "Rug-headed kerns speaking tongues: Shakespeare, Translation and the Irish Language," in Shakespeare and Ireland: History, Politics, Culture, edited by Mark Thornton Burnett and Ramona Wray (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997), 193-212, 194 and 201.

24. Plunket Barton, Links, 66.

25. Anne Laurence, "The Cradle to the Grave: English Observation of Irish Social Customs in the Seventeenth Century," The Seventeenth Century 3 (1985): 63-84, 66.

26. In Twelfth Night, the question put to the allegedly mad Malvolio to test his sanity is "What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning wildfowl?" (William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, edited by M.M. Mahood [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968], IV.2.49-50). Shakespeare would also have found reference to Pythagoras' theory of metempsychosis in the closing soliloquy of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus.

27. See Andrew Hadfield, '"Hitherto she ne're could fancy him': Shakespeare's 'British' Plays and the Exclusion of Ireland," in Shakespeare and Ireland, 47-67, 48.

28. Susan Doran, "Why Did Elizabeth Not Marry?," in Dissing Elizabeth: Negative Representations of Gloriana, edited by Julia M. Walker (London: Duke UP, 1998), 30-59, 49.

29. For a similar instance of use of reference to the New World to turn a disparaging mirror on a queen of the old, see Claire Jowitt, '"Monsters and Straunge Births': The Politics of Richard Eden" (Connotations 6.1 [1996/7]: 51-64), who argues that "[t]he pregancy of The Decades of the Newe World or West India can also be read as a hostile comment on the [Mary I']s inability to bear children" (59).

30. Lois Potter, ed., Playing Robin Hood: The Legend as Performance in Five Centuries (Newark: U of Delaware P, 1998), 21. See also 15, and the New Penguin introduction, 11 and 38.

31. Edwin Davenport, "The Representation of Robin Hood in Elizabethan Drama: George a Greene and Edward I," in Potter, Playing Robin Hood, 45-62, 50-1.

32. For discussion of this, see for instance Naomi Conn Liebler, Shakespeare's Festive Tragedy (London: Routledge, 1995), 85-111.

33. See Greenblatt, Marvelous Possessions, 138.

34. For comment on this, see Charles Nicholl, The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe (London: Jonathan Cape, 1992), 74. The same idea may also be glanced at in Antony and Cleopatra (see Gilberto Sacerdoti, "Three Kings, Herod of Jewry, and a Child: Apocalypse and Infinity of the World in Antony and Cleopatra," in Italian Studies in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries, edited by Michele Marrapodi and Giorgio Melchiori [Newark: U of Delaware P, 1999], 165-184, 174).

35. Alan Lutkus suggests that Touchstone's name may play on Robert Armin's previous history as an apprentice goldsmith ("Touchstone," in Fools and Jesters in Literature, Art, and History, edited by Vicki K. Janik [Westport: Greenwood P, 1998], 466-470, 468).

36. John Temple Leader, Life of Sir Robert Dudley (Florence: G. Barbera, 1895), 37.

37. It may conceivably be worth noting that one of those who sailed with Ralegh was a Lieutenant Hewes (see Nicholl, Creature, 70) and that it is sometimes suggested that Shakespeare may be referring to someone of the name of Hewes or Hughes in some of the puns in the sonnets. Undoubtedly, however, it was a very common name.

38. Nicholl, Creature, 86. For the suggestion that Shakespeare may actually have been alluding to Lodge in the play, as well as borrowing his material, see the New Penguin introduction, 29.

39. Quoted in Nicholl, 296. It is sometimes suggested that Shakespeare is remembering Chapman's Banquet of Sense (1595) in As You Like It, or that Chapman in turn alludes to the play in his May-Day (see the New Penguin introduction, 37 and 30). For discussion of Chapman's stance on the vexed question of gold, see Walter S.H. Lim, The Arts of Empire: The Poetics of Colonialism from Ralegh to Milton (Newark: U of Delaware P, 1998), 60-1.

40. See Jeffrey L. Singman, "Munday's Unruly Earl," in Potter, Playing Robin Hood, 63-76, 69.

41. Nicholl (300) points to the general intersection between As You Like It and the image of America as a golden world.

42. Nicholl (170) also comments on the presence of a similar 'sanitising' element in Ralegh's account of the Amazons, and further notes the likely influence of Ralegh's account of Guiana on Othello (280). Joan Pong Linton suggests that Ralegh's perception of the landscape may also have itself been influenced by recollections of The Faerie Queene (The Romance of the New World, 40-1).

43. Whitehead, Discoverie, introduction, 4 and 5.

44. Greenblatt, Marvelous Possessions, 138.

45. Louis Adrian Montrose, '"The Place of a Brother' in As You Like It: Social Process and Comic Form," Shakespeare Quarterly 32 (1981): 28-54.

46. For the notoriety of Ralegh's gold-lust, see for instance Pong Linton, The Romance of the New World, 40.

47. Nicholl, 316.

48. Geoffrey of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain, translated by Lewis Thorpe (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966), 107.

49. Pong Linton suggests that Lodge's A Margarite of America (1596) stages a similar conflict between spiritual and material values (The Romance of the New World, 42 and 52-3). The motif is also apparent in Mary's opening speech in Thomas Dekker's and John Webster's Sir Thomas Wyat (1607), in which she says "I haue forsaken for a rich prayer Booke. / The Golden Mines of wealthy India /...This little volume inclosed in this hand, / Is richer then the Empire of this land," while Dudley calls crowns "goulden fruite hung on a barren Tree" (7 and 49: quotations taken from the Chadwyck-Healey verse drama database). On English poetic writing about colonialism as generally espousing spiritual values, see Jeffrey Knapp, who remarks that in a text like Lyly's Midas, "Spain, empire, and gold on the one hand are opposed to England, island, and poetry on the other" (An Empire Nowhere: England, America, and Literature from Utopia to The Tempest [Berkeley: U of California P, 1992], 9; see also 5-7 and 16-17.

50. See Max Harris, "Sweet Moll and Malinche: Maid Marian Goes to Mexico," in Potter, Playing Robin Hood, 101-110, p.104.

Works Cited


Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at L.M.Hopkins@shu.ac.uk.

© 2002-, Lisa Hopkins (Editor, EMLS).